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Montecristo Captain Quixote


The World Line of the Horizon Star

Some would say I was a lost man in a lost world

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Montecristo Captain Quixote

I should be working on some McGuffin stuff, but I really can't concentrate

Robert called this evening. His dad is dying. His dad went into the hospital for a triple bypass and a valve replacement at the start of December. He was supposed to be out of the hospital sometime around the sixth, and Robert flew to Cleveland with his family to be there to visit and help out with things when his dad came home. He was coming back home on the ninth. Sometime before the ninth, he called us and told us that his Dad was in intensive care. Apparently, the doctors tried to get his dad up after the surgery and he had some sort of "event" and ended up in intensive care. A few days after that, Robert called Don and Tom and I and told us that his dad was doing better and that he'd be back Wednesday. Tonight, he called me and told me that his dad's liver and kidneys had failed and that the doctors did not expect him to survive more than a day or two. Robert's return is now postponed until Monday.

Robert's parents are very friendly people. I met them a couple of months ago, when they came out for a visit. Apparently, they wanted to meet the people with whom their son was in business. Robert's dad struck me as a quiet soft-spoken and thoughtful man. His mother is a confident and outspoken woman. We all sat around in Peet's Coffee in Alameda and discussed McGuffin, and our plans and listened to some well-meant advice on how we should pursue things. They are definitely idea people, and you can see from where Robert gets it. They're quite likable individuals. When I first heard that Robert was going back to Cleveland while his dad recovered from surgery, I sent a get-well card to him with Robert. It was only in hindsight that I thought it would have been better to have included Tom and Don too, on the idea, but I didn't think of it at the time. It was an impulse kind of thing.

Robert and I are not good ones for knowing exactly what to say when someone comes to them with bad news about which nothing can be done. We both pride ourselves on being guys who know how to solve problems, and yet the world does confront us with problems that have no simple solution, if they have one at all. I remember our brief conversation when I had told him about my wife leaving. Really, there wasn't much that could be said after the details of the news had been relayed. Sure, I felt bad, but what was anybody going to be able to do about that? We discussed the events and some facts and details, and then we went right back to our McGuffin discussion, as we usually did every other lunch time. Tonight's conversation ran somewhat the same way, obviously with the roles reversed. I briefed him on what the three of us had been doing on our McGuffin work, while he was away, assured him that we would put any decisions on some things on which we had been working on hold until he got back and to take what time he needed. I felt bad for him. I still do, and I told him that I was sorry to hear the news, but what else can be said to someone in that situation?

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I'm very sorry to hear about Robert's father. I'm afraid that I'm not much good at figuring out the right thing to say in these situations. As you note, sometimes solutions are intractably elusive even to creative problem solvers. What seems to work best is to make myself available, and let my friends know that my ears and shoulders are theirs if needed.

I think you said what you were able to say sincerely. I'm sure he heard that and appreciates it. He knows you well enough to know you are there for him, should he need other folks to lean on outside his family.

You did and said the right things. Just being there for him and you knowing each other so well is almost enough without having to voice anything. (Hope that makes sense).

Strength to him and his family and to you for being his friend and business partner.

words can seem so useless at times...

but ultimately, outside of our physical presence//life experience//body language, it is all we have to offer...

it seems to me that you are a very good friend to Robert, and a supportive one at that, plus an extremely decent business partner to boot.

i am pained at reading this entry because it stirs in me the strong emotions i have surrounding my dad's death and i can feel so much for Robert even though i don't even know the man... i know how it feels to be in that kind of pain, but i am grateful to Robert that his father will not linger on in extended pain or some other irreparable state as your references to this man seem like he would only want to live the fullest life, not be a burden of any kind to his family (just what i sense).

anyway, as for your morose feelings, give yourself some credit for who you are, for what you have done for your friend/partner... i know that we are all capable of being triggered by life events, even if they are not ours to deal with directly, it's that whole human thing, and it's not easy.

you are fine, you done did good :)


Someone told me once that it doesn't matter what you say as much as that you said something. It sounds plausible, but of course doesn't make that any easier. For my two cents, I'd say that along with your condolances, the assurance that he could safely put another part of his life on hold while this is happening was a good thing to give him.

... it took me several tries to tangle myself up in that phrasing, I hope it takes you less to make sense of it.

That is the answer to your last question.

Nobody knows "what to say" or "how to act" in these situations. That's the joy of being human.

I am sure he appreciated your expression of condolence and that whatever you said was plenty.

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